Last Saturday I drove to Bangkok with Tan, and on Sunday met up with Jack, yet another old colleague, from the late 70’s Bangkok scene, who now lives in Sydney. He is here for a month’s holiday and is also a good friend of Dave, my “Lazarus” buddy who keeps getting raised from the dead.
We went together to see Dave on Sunday afternoon. Dave has continued to make incredible progress in his health and is now almost back to his old self and has put some weight back on. He is still slightly unsteady on his pins and can no longer ride on the back of a motorcycle taxi, but apart from that he seems to be the same old eccentric, stubborn Dave that I have known for almost forty years.
Dave is still dry, (or at least claims that he is and to be fair, we saw nothing to suggest that this was not the case), and he still insists that he now understands that he can never take another drink. He openly admits he is an alcoholic (which he never did before), and has also come clean about the quantity of beer he was consuming – close to two cases a day! He had always previously insisted that his beer consumption was very low and it was the medication that had caused the problem. I knew this to be untrue because his lady had told me so on many occasions.
So there is now a degree of honesty and acceptance of his condition that was never there before, but in other ways he still lives in his own fantasy world and continues to say and believe things about his work and his life which at best are self delusions and at worse are outright lies.
But in spite of all his self destructive tendencies, he is still an intelligent person with a sharp, incisive mind, and it seems inconceivable that at some level of consciousness he doesn’t understand that much of what he says contains a high degree of self deception.
Maybe this refusal to accept the truth about things in his life is partly the cause of his mental sickness and which leads him to booze and medication.
Dave is still quite heavily medicated, still only sleeps fitfully, and leads a lonely, strange lifestyle.
We stayed with Dave for a number of hours and even took him out for a meal before dropping him back home later.
Both Jack and I felt that it was probably only a matter of time before he hits the bottle again. It was in his eyes, and in many of the things that he said. Sad to say, but we both thought that Dave actually wants to die, and sooner or later it will happen.
I hope we are wrong.
My own alcohol consumption is getting worse and worse. Both on Friday night and Saturday night I drank far too much and woke up with bad hangovers. It is becoming out of control again and if I can’t sort it, I will be in trouble soon.
Tan spent most of the time in Bangkok with friends and in-laws and has come back to the hotel at night, sober and on time. She always gives me a welcome smile and we always have a ‘good time’.
(It is all so difference from Dang, who would rarely come back at all, never sober and would always fight me when she did eventually reappear.)
On Monday morning we drove to Nakhon Sawan, a distance of two hundred and fifty kilometres, which due to torrential rain for most of the journey, took me about two and half hours. After stopping by her old high school to arrange to get some copy certificates, we drove onto Tan’s home where we received a right royal welcome from Mum, Dad, Grandma, sisters, brothers and various other relations and kids.
Tan and her mother cooked some wonderful Thai food and I stuffed myself silly – all washed down with some ice cold Singha beer.
Today Tan is off with her aunt to obtain a driving licence for car and motorcycle, and hopefully sometime later this afternoon we will return to Bangkok.
I am thinking a lot about my new relationship. I know it is ridiculous and cannot last. But we get on so well together and i know that Tan is very happy with me. She is not acting – I have been with so many Thai women that I hope you can give me credit for knowing their true feelings.
I always knew that Dang and others didn’t care about me, it was just my perverse nature that made me continue to try and change them when deep down I knew they would never change. (I was in self denial – much like my mate Dave).
But Tan likes me and is happy with me, and we make great love and much of the time she is the one who demands it – not me. In fact sometimes I wonder how long I can keep it up.
Tan’s family are lovely, friendly and very polite – and remember, they are NOT poor. Tan’s mum owns substantial farm land and it sees like everyone either has a decent looking pick-up or a shiny new motorcycle.
Nobody in the family has ever been involved with a farang before, but that doesn’t seem to bother them.
If anyone starts on the house building or sinsod crap, you won’t see me for dust.
Tan wants to spend three years at technical college and then another four years at university. By the time she finishes her education she will be twenty nine and I will be seventy.
I will be very surprised if we are still together in seven years time, but in the meantime I will enjoy myself and try to keep her happy. It will certainly make me very happy to put a girl through university. For me, it will be an achievement, of sorts.
I have told Tan to tell me if she ever gets tired of me or if she meets a new boyfriend. She has promised faithfully that she will do this, and I believe her. She is a nice person.
MARDIE (Part 9)
I was left alone for a few minutes and the reality of my situation was starting to sink in. Surely they wouldn’t put me in jail? This was civilised Canada! It was an ex British colony for God’s sake, and was still part of the British Commonwealth! What on earth was going on?
An officer i hadn’t seen before entered the detention room with my bags on a trolley.
He sat down behind the desk and asked me very politely to open the bags and show him some proof of my finances – that I would be able to support myself if they let me enter Canada.
I started to relax and found the file containing my bank statements and other banking documents. I showed him my latest UK statement, and also some details the bank had given me of banks in Montreal where I would be able to open an account.
He studied all the documents, and then took them out of the room and left me alone once more.
I had been sitting there there for half an hour when he eventually returned with a bundle of papers in his hand.
Firstly he handed my bank documents back, and then my passport. My heart leaped – they were letting me go.
Then he said:
“We cannot accept those bank documents as proof of assets. You may or may not intend to transfer money to Canada but we have no way of verifying your these intentions so it cannot be taken into account when deciding whether to grant you an entry visa.”
Oh God! I thought, they are sending me back to the USA.
“You are carrying fifty pounds with you. That should pay for a room and board for a couple of weeks. So we have issued you with a tourist visa for two weeks. If you overstay your visa you will be arrested and jailed. If you can transfer money to Canada with two weeks, you may go to the immigration centre and apply for an extension.
But I warn you sir; under no circumstances will you be allowed to work. You may stay longer if you have money and can prove it to the immigration authorities, but you may not work. If you do you will be arrested and jailed!
You may now leave”
With that he got up and waved for me to leave the room with my bags.
“But the bus has gone, how am I supposed to get to Montreal?”
“You can take the next greyhound that passes through. We will speak to the driver and he will let you on. It happens all the time.
Another hour later I was back on the bus with a visa that allowed me to stay in Canada for two weeks, and a large stamp which read: “YOU ARE PROHIBITED FROM WORKING”.
I had been sitting on the bus for a few minutes when the man sitting next to me, a well dressed, middle aged man looked at me and asked me if I was O.K.?
He was an American, also on his way to Montreal and he seemed genuinely concerned for my welfare, having seen me being escorted onto the bus by two immigration officers.
We got chatting and I told him my story. His name was Jim Donnington and he told me he was in the oil business. He asked me where I was staying in Montreal, and when I said I had nowhere to stay, he offered to help me find a place when we arrived there.
When I told him about my visa problems and showed him my passport with the “forbidden to work” stamp in it, he told me not to worry about it. He advised me to find a job first and then go to immigration and ask them to change my visa status. He told me that they were crying out for accountants in Montreal and he was sure that they would grant me a work visa once I found a job.
By the time we reached Montreal, Jim had become a firm friend. I judged that he was genuinely concerned for my welfare – a young, shy, naive ‘limey’ trying to make a life for himself in a strange land.
I was far too innocent in those far off days to think that he may have had other motives for helping me, and we shall see as my story progresses whether or not I should have been concerned about this “Good Samaritan” who had come to my rescue.
Upon my arrival, Jim helped me with my bags – he only had a small overnight bag – and we made our way from the downtown bus terminal and then took a cab to a decent looking residential area where we started checking out guest houses.
It didn’t take long to find a nice room within my price range, but to my surprise, Jim paid the deposit to the landlady and refused to let me reimburse him. When I protested, he told me to pay him back when I was settled and had a job.
Once I had my bags in the room, Jim made his farewells. He told me he had business to do that day and that he would be returning to New York that night.
He gave me a card with his phone number on it, and told me to call him any time if I needed anything, and that once I was settled, to get on a bus and go and visit him in New York. He said he had a large apartment in downtown Manhattan and would be glad to put me up there.
I really didn’t know what to make of him, but I could only conclude that he was genuine and that I was extremely fortunate to run into him.
After I sorted the things in my room I took a walk around the area I was staying, the first of many walks I was to take during my stay in the town.
It was early spring but still very cold. Montreal was only just emerging from winter and there was still plenty of snow on the hills and on open land. It was a beautiful city with a picturesque blend of modern and ancient and I grew very fond of it and its people during my time there.
I decided to take Jim’s advice and start looking for a job, and then go to immigration to see what i could do about my immigrant status.
The obvious place to start was in the classified ads of the daily newspapers, and I soon found that Jim’s advice about there being an abundance of accounting vacancies wasn’t misplaced. There were columns and columns of ads for accountants, and I picked out one ‘punchy’ looking accountancy employment agency that seemed to have hundreds of vacancies, and called them for an interview.
I found the place the next day and came sporting my ‘part qualification’ certificate as a Chartered accountant, (I had passed the intermediate exam and completed my five year training article- ship), and more importantly, a glowing reference from my boss at the firm of Chartered Accountants. But my ‘piece de resistance’ was my terrific reference written by one of the senior Vice presidents of my previous employer, the US oil company.
Quite how much my Canadian friends understood about the UK Chartered Accountants training system I have no idea, but all these papers seem to impress them mightily, and within ten minutes I had been ushered into the office of the man who bore the name of the agency and also whose name was on all their ‘punchy’ ads.
Mike was a brash, no nonsense, fast talking professional and was extremely ‘bullish’ about finding me a decent job and seemed totally unconcerned, if not a little upset when I related to him my problems at the border and my immigration status.
He said he would write me a letter to the effect that they were finding me a job and that I should go straight down to immigration and get the matter resolved. He said they were thousands of Brits working in Montreal and he had never heard of anyone having this kind of problem before. I was to call him from immigration if they gave me any problems.
The immigration officials were all French Canadians, and it became immediately clear that they were not going to be very cooperative in my attempts to have my status changed. Their hostility was palpable, and when I showed them the letter from the employment agency, they threw it back at me with disdain.
I asked for a telephone and called Mike and told him what had happened. Mike was outraged and became more determined than ever to get his way. My problem had become his mission.
Mike made some enquiries through his contacts and came up with a ‘human rights’ French Canadian lawyer who had a lot of experience in representing illegal immigrants and fighting the immigration department.
The lawyer agreed to take on my case, free of charge. He told me that what the immigration department was doing, was illegal, and that under Canadian law, once I had been legally admitted into the country, I had a right to apply to be a landed immigrant and that it was in contravention of other Canadian laws to forbid me to work while my application was being considered, as it was tantamount to forcing me to starve.
He explained to me that recently the French Canadians had become very aggressive in trying to impose these ‘no work’ restrictions and that their actions only affected immigrants who were not of French origin. It was blatantly racist and he planned to challenge their actions in the court.
Armed with this information he told me to go back to immigration, with a letter from him, and ask for the forms to apply for landed immigrant status.
This I did and this time I received much better and respectful treatment from the officers. They gave me a stack of forms to fill in and about two hours later I was called into an office where an officer was holding my passport. He told me to sit and told me that that my application for landed immigrant status had been accepted and it would take approximately six months to process. In the meantime he said I would be allowed to stay in Canada and he had stamped my passport accordingly.
I assumed my problems were at an end, thanks to Mike and the lawyer, but my joy was short lived when he placed a document in front of me and asked me to sign it.
In essence, he was asking me to sign a paper declaring that I would not take gainful employment in Canada until my immigrant status had been approved’
I asked him how I was supposed to live for the next six months, and he said it was not his problem.
I decided to call the lawyer. He then asked me to pass the phone to the immigration officer and they had a long, obviously confrontational conversation in French.
Finally the phone was handed back tom me and my lawyer told me that I should refuse to sign the paper.
I asked him what would happen if I refused to sign, and he said he wasn’t sure, but just refuse to sign and see what they do. The lawyer said that they had already stamped my passport up for six months and as I was now being processed as a landed immigrant they would not put a ‘no work’ stamp in there. Hence the document I was being asked to sign.
I asked him if they would keep my passport or maybe even detain me, and the lawyer said that I shouldn’t worry – that whatever happens he would help me.
I was going to be a test case!!.